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2. Priests and Princes Fail.

Hosea v. 1-14.

The line followed in this paragraph is almost parallel to that of chap. iv., running out to a prospect of invasion. But the charge is directed solely against the chiefs of the people, and the strictures of chap. vii. 7 ff. upon the political folly of the rulers are anticipated.

Hear this, O Priests, and hearken, House of Israel, and, House of the King, give ear. For on you is the sentence! You, who have hitherto been the judges, this time shall be judged.

A snare have ye become at Mizpeh, and a net spread out upon Tabor, and a pit have they made deep upon Shittim;509509   So by slightly altering the consonants. But the text is uncertain. but I shall be the scourge of them all. I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from Me—for now hast thou played the harlot, Ephraim, Israel is defiled. The worship on the high places, whether nominally of261 Jehovah or not, was sheer service of Ba'alim. It was in the interest both of the priesthood and of the rulers to multiply these sanctuaries, but they were only traps for the people. Their deeds will not let them return to their God; for a harlot spirit is in their midst, and Jehovah, for all their oaths by Him, they have not known. But the pride of Israel shall testify to his face; and Israel and Ephraim shall stumble by their guilt—stumble also shall Judah with them. By Israel's pride many understand God. But the term is used too opprobriously by Amos to allow us to agree to this. The phrase must mean that Israel's arrogance, or her proud prosperity, by the wounds which it feels in this time of national decay, shall itself testify against the people—a profound ethical symptom to which we shall return when treating of Repentance.510510   Note on the Pride of Israel.—גאון means grandeur, and is (1) so used of Jehovah's majesty (Micah v. 3; Isa. ii. 10, 19, 21; xxiv. 14), and (2) of the greatness of human powers (Zech. x. 11; Ezek. xxxii. 12). In Psalm xlvii. 5 it is parallel to the land of Israel (cf. Nahum ii. 3). (3) In a grosser sense the word is used of the rank vegetation of Jordan (Eng. wrongly swelling) (Jer. xii. 5; Zech. xi. 3: cf. Job xxxviii. 11). It would appear to be this grosser sense of rankness, arrogance, in which Amos vi. 8 takes it as parallel to the palaces of Israel which Jehovah loathes and will destroy. In Amos viii. 7 the phrase may be used in scorn; yet some take it even there of God Himself (Buhl, last ed. of Gesenius' Lexicon).
    Now in Hosea it occurs twice in the phrase given above— גאון ישראל בפניו וענה (v. 5, vii. 10). LXX., Targum and some Jewish exegetes take ענה as a ל״ו verb, to be humbled, and this suits both contexts. But the word בפניו to his face almost compels us to take ענה as a ל״י verb, to witness against (cf. Job xvi. 8; Jer. xiv. 7). Hence Wellhausen renders "With his arrogance Israel witnesseth against himself," and confirms the plaint of Jehovah—the arrogance being the trust in the ritual and the feeling of no need to turn from that and repent (cf. vii. 10). Orelli quotes Amos vi. 8 and Nahum ii. 3, and says injustice cleaves to all Israel's splendour, so it testifies against him.

    But the context, which in both cases speaks of Israel's gradual decay, demands rather the interpretation that Israel's material grandeur shows unmistakable signs of breaking down. For the ethical development of this interpretation, see below, pp. 337 f.
Yet the verse may be rendered in harmony with the context: the pride of Israel shall be humbled to his face. With their sheep and their cattle they go about to seek Jehovah, and shall not find Him; He hath drawn off from them. They have been unfaithful to Jehovah, for they have begotten262 strange children. A generation has grown up who are not His. Now may a month devour them with their portions! Any month may bring the swift invader. Hark! the alarum of war! How it reaches to the back of the land!

Blow the trumpet in Gibeah, the clarion in Ramah;

Raise the slogan, Beth-Aven: "After thee, Benjamin!"511511   Probably the ancient war-cry of the clan. Cf. Judg. v. 14.

Ephraim shall become desolation in the day of rebuke! Among the tribes of Israel I have made known what is certain!

At this point, ver. 10, the discourse swerves from the religious to the political leaders of Israel; but as the princes were included with the priests in the exordium (ver. 1), we can hardly count this a new oracle.512512   Yet ver. 9 goes with ver. 8 (so Wellhausen), and not with ver. 10 (so Ewald).

The princes of Judah are like landmark-removers—commonest of cheats in Israel—upon them will I pour out My wrath like water. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed is his right, for he wilfully went after vanity.513513   For צו read שׁוא. And I am as the moth to Ephraim, and as rottenness to the house of263 Judah. Both kingdoms have begun to fall to pieces, for by this time Uzziah of Judah also is dead, and the weak politicians are in charge whom Isaiah satirised. And Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sore; and Ephraim went to Asshur and514514   Wellhausen inserts Judah, with that desire to complete a parallel which seems to me to be overdone by so many critics. If Judah be inserted we should need to bring the date of these verses down to the reign of Ahaz in 734. sent to King Jareb—King Combative, King Pick-Quarrel,515515   Guthe: "King Fighting-Cock." a nickname for the Assyrian monarch. The verse probably refers to the tribute which Menahem sent to Assyria in 738. If so, then Israel has drifted full five years into her "thick night." But He cannot heal you, nor dry up your sore. For I, Myself, am like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, I rend and go My way; I carry off and there is none to deliver. It is the same truth which Isaiah expressed with even greater grimness.516516   See Isaiah I.-XXXIX. (Expositor's Bible), pp. 242 ff. God Himself is His people's sore; and not all their statecraft nor alliances may heal what He inflicts. Priests and Princes, then, have alike failed. A greater failure is to follow.


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